From 1935 until 1975, just about every junkie busted for dope went to the Narcotic Farm. Equal parts federal prison, treatment center, farm, and research laboratory, the Farm was designed to rehabilitate addicts and help researchers discover a cure for drug addiction. Although it began as a bold and ambitious public works project, and became famous as a rehabilitation center frequented by great jazz musicians among others, the Farm was shut down forty years after it opened amid scandal over its drug-testing program, which involved experiments where inmates were being used as human guinea pigs and rewarded with heroin and cocaine for their efforts.
Published to coincide with a documentary to be aired on PBS, The Narcotic Farm includes rare and unpublished photographs, film stills, newspaper and magazine clippings, government documents, as well as interviews, writings, and anecdotes from the prisoners, doctors, and guards that trace the Farm’s noble rise and tumultuous fall, revealing the compelling story of what really happened inside the prison walls.
The Narcotic Farm is a beautiful, fascinating book that takes readers deep into a forgotten American institution. The pictures are remarkable and the story brings an important moment in history vividly to life. It’s a stunning work.
Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps
The story of America’s long and deep affair with addictive drugs is incomplete without mention of the legendary federal narcotic hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. The Narcotic Farm tells this story well, and in addition provides a wealth of revealing photographs and documents that speak volumes on what it was like to be a junkie in the mid-twentieth century.
Luc Sante, author of Low Life and Evidence
The Narcotic Farmworks its magic by recapturing, in images and words, the lost world of “Narco,” the sprawling federal prison-hospital for drug addicts in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s the details that get you, from the disheveled misery of withdrawal to the uninhibited joy of performing in the house jazz band.
David Courtwright, author of Dark Paradise, Addicts Who Survived, and Forces of Habit
Everyone who cares about addiction and recovery in this country should look at these pictures and read this text.
Susan Cheever, author of My Name is Bill Wilson: His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous and Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction
“The ‘Narco,’ with its combination of prison and hospital, drug experimentation and drug cure, total institution and farm, exemplified the contradictions of American drug policy. The authors are to be commended for their accessible text and high-quality images that vividly convey the history of the Narcotics Farm from the high hopes of its birth to its evolution into a “fraternity for drug addicts.”–Eric Schneider – “Smack: Heroin and the American City,” University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008